Get to Know the Native Ornamental Grasses
guest blogger: Betsy Fleenor
Landscaping with ornamental grasses is a popular trend. They offer nesting sites and cover for wildlife, excellent erosion control, unusual texture, and four-season interest.
A darker side to this trend is the growing realization that the grasses that are the easiest to purchase are rarely native and can be harmfully invasive. This would include pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana), maiden grass (Miscanthus spp.), ribbon grass (Phalaris arundinacea), and fountain grass (Pennisetum spp.). Maiden grass and fountain grass have made it to the top of some state’s invasive plant lists.
The alternative is to use native grasses which serve the same function in the landscape, are less invasive and extremely drought resistant.
Please note that natives grasses, like all plants, need to be sited and used correctly: River oats (Chasmathium latifolium) are well behaved in the shade with average to dry soil. But give it moisture, enriched soil and a bit of sun and it will soon spread beyond its bounds. In a few years Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) can seed around.
For the last couple of years, the Native Plant booth has featured a variety of native grasses at the Fall Sale. Since they are often hard to find, our offering serves as a sampler to introduce them to you. Though our quantities are small, if customers are interested in a large planting of native grasses, we can put them in touch with sources that can readily supply them.
This year we will have the following grasses at our booth:
Andropogon ternarius – Splitbeard Bluestem
Chasmanthium latifolium – River Oats
Chasmanthium sessiliflorum – Longleaf Wood Oats
Eragrostis elliottii – Elliot’s Lovegrass
Muhlenbergia capillaris – Muhly Grass
Panicum virgatum – Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ – Shenandoah Switchgrass
Schizachyrium scoparium – Little Bluestem
Sorghastrum elliottii – Weeping Indian Grass
Sporobolus junceus – Pineywoods Dropseed
All are in limited quantities so we hope you will shop for them as early in the sale as possible.